In This Article
Overview of Therapies for Hemochromatosis
If you’ve been recently diagnosed with hemochromatosis, you might be wondering, “now what?”
Is there anything you can do to restore your health and feel better?
The good news is that there are excellent treatments for hemochromatosis that, if started early enough and done as recommended, are highly successful in controlling this condition of too much iron.
In many cases, treatments for hemochromatosis may be successful in reversing symptoms and restoring overall health.
The primary treatment for hemochromatosis is therapeutic phlebotomy, also known as venesection or blood donation. This is absolutely the best way to “de-iron” or remove iron from an individual. It works by reducing iron overload in the bloodstream and in the tissues.
The secondary treatment is using chelating medicines. These medications are often used for patients who are not able to tolerate phlebotomy for any reason.
In this article, let’s break down these two treatments for hemochromatosis, while also introducing the best complementary and holistic treatments for iron overload.
Therapeutic Phlebotomy for the Treatment of Hemochromatosis
Phlebotomy for iron overload is just like blood donation, however, it is often done more frequently.
Depending on the values of your lab tests, your hemochromatosis genotype, and the progression of your condition or symptoms, you may be donating blood weekly until your numbers improve.
For individuals with the highest amount of iron, this may be their reality for quite some time.
The goal of therapeutic phlebotomy is to remove blood in an attempt to clear stored iron from the tissues and organs.
Ferritin level and transferrin saturation blood tests are monitored to dictate how long these more frequent phlebotomies occur. Once an individual hits their target goal, they switch to maintenance levels of phlebotomy. For many who reach this point, there is much to celebrate!
However, there are many reasons why someone may not be able to tolerate phlebotomy. Small stature, veins that are “weak” or “slip,” dizziness or fainting, and fear of needles–these are all common reasons preventing individuals with hemochromatosis from receiving phlebotomy as prescribed.
Medicines for the Treatment of Hemochromatosis
Conventionally, if someone doesn’t tolerate phlebotomy, doctors may choose to use a chelating medication.
Chelating medicines work by binding to excess iron to help excrete it from the body.
Currently, the available medicines that work to decrease excess iron include:
- Deferoxamine (Desferal)
- Exjade (Deferasirox)
- Ferriprox (Deferiprone)
Of these three, Deferasirox is most indicated for the treatment of primary hereditary hemochromatosis. [reference]
All three are indicated in acute iron poisoning or in cases of iron overload due to blood transfusions, such as seen in thalassemia syndromes. [reference]
It is always important to follow your doctor’s advice. One of these medications may save your life, especially if you are unable to tolerate therapeutic phlebotomy.
But they are not for everyone. I have received many comments from individuals detailing their difficulties with the medicines involved in hemochromatosis treatment.
These medicines have some pretty serious side effects associated with them and are not to be used casually.
Holistic Treatments for Hemochromatosis
After reading about phlebotomy and chelating medicines, you may be wondering, “What else can I do? Are there other options??
Conventionally, that’s about it. There’s nothing else.
I absolutely agree that therapeutic phlebotomy is the cornerstone, front line, most important therapy in the treatment of hemochromatosis. By reducing excess iron, phlebotomy can reduce symptoms, halt or hopefully reverse the progress of the disease, and save lives.
However, it’s hard to sit back and wonder, “what else could I be doing?” and feel like there are no other tools that you can use to take charge of your health.
Thankfully, there are supportive, gentle, safe therapies you can add to your care plan to help find balance and restore health!
I am fortunate to hear stories of people’s health. I am fortunate to be able to read the research, understand health, and find solutions. I am really fortunate that I discovered my hemochromatosis at an early age.
But it is an unfortunate situation that so many people afflicted with this disease are simply told to donate blood without any other support.
Individuals still have health problems. They have questions. They need more support.
Holistically, we’ve got so many more solutions to complement your care and improve your overall health.
Learn more about all the ways holistic medicine can support you in your journey with hemochromatosis
Learn About Diet and Nutrition for Hemochromatosis
Hemochromatosis is what happens when too much iron is absorbed from the diet. By implementing practical dietary rules into your daily life, you can reduce the total amount of iron before it ever reaches your body!
Learn About Nutritional Supplements in Iron Overload
Nutritional supplements and herbal remedies are complementary tools that may help improve the health of an individual with hemochromatosis. Integrating these natural remedies with a number of holistic dietary strategies in coordination with your doctor’s care plan may be an excellent way to improve your symptoms and your health.
Learn About How Naturopathic Doctors Can Help Guide You in Your Journey
Trained as specialists in both conventional and holistic medicine, Drs. Eric and Kristina Lewis have created a range of resources to help you live your best and find a place of health.
If you have hemochromatosis, be sure to check with your doctor before starting any supplement, diet, or exercise routine.
No matter the situation, I do believe we can always do something to help treat hemochromatosis. Ideally, our treatment integrates the best of the conventional and natural worlds of medicine. There are many solutions, big and small, that may help you to feel better and improve your health.